The St. Louis County Council voted Tuesday to overturn an indoor mask mandate put in place Monday.
The 5-2 vote followed hours of contentious public comment, mostly against the mandate.
“Liberty doesn’t come in increments, small doses, or watered-down varieties,” said Councilman Ernie Trakas, who voted to repeal the mandate.
The mandate required those age five and older to wear masks in indoor public spaces and on public transportation.
The vote to overturn it happened the same day the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to advise both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in areas with high Covid-19 transmission to wear masks indoors.
Almost every state in the US is seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The mask mandate in St. Louis was announced by County Executive Dr. Sam Page on the advice the health department, but Councilman Tim Fitch spearheaded an effort to overturn it, citing a new Missouri law that limits the ability of local government leaders to enact emergency health restrictions.
“If Sam Page wants health mandates, this council stands ready to hear his arguments and act on his requests,” said Fitch.
Many of those who made a public comment before the vote mentioned disproven claims about Covid-19 vaccines and alternative treatments.
“You keep showing up here without a mask, but chock full of conspiracy theories about false data claiming that more people are dying from the vaccine than the disease,” said Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway, who voted to keep the mask mandate.
Speaking after the vote, Page did not discuss the council’s decision, but encouraged people to mask up anyway.
“Wearing a mask is easy to do, and it will have a big impact,” Page said. “I wish more people were vaccinated, but that’s not where we are right now.”
Studies show that the vaccines, though not 100% effective against Covid-19 infection, are highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death.
Missouri and its neighbor, Arkansas, have experienced increasing cases and hospitalizations in the past few weeks amid a recent surge that has particularly hit unvaccinated communities.
About 41% of the Missouri’s population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the CDC.
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